Meet Veronique Cote – a brilliant girl with an eccentric outlook on life which translates into her unique abilities to see and create art in a very different way that most people are used to or willing to accept. Her art has a story, a message, her art speaks to those who are willing to listen, and her art makes you activate parts of your brain that conditionally had been sugarcoated by the society.
Veronique is originally from Canada who now lives and works in Miami area. Miami, however, wasn’t her first destination in the land of opportunities. Before coming to Miami Veronique had made a few stops along the East coast following an employment as an artist.
Growing up Veronique was always a very crafty kid, but decision to be an artist as a career did not come to her until the age of nineteen, when she was already attending college. By nature Veronique is a Philomath - a person who loves to learn. She had completed her Bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Arts, and then received Master’s Degree in Fine Arts and Photography. As she tells herself , “If I had the money and time, if I didn’t have to have a job I would still be in school at this point just because that’s what an artist does - gathers information. That’s why I have so much education and that’s why I like it.”
I contacted Veronique after discovering her art one day during a visit to the Art Center on Lincoln Road on Miami Beach. Instantaneously I became a huge fan. Her art pieces seemed very remarkable to me, so I wanted to find out more about the person responsible for the creation of these unconventional artistic expressions.
SFL Style: What inspired you to become an artist?
Veronique Cote: I think my interest for storytelling. I wanted to be a writer, but then through college I realized that image making was more efficient for me. I have a grandma that was a crafter so I was always good with my hands, but my main interest when I was in school was storytelling. I started with written story and then eventually with moving images and then with still images. They just got more and more precise as my career got older. And of course, the need to tell my own stories. What I want is to look at a culture and evaluate it, and talk about it, and play with it.
SFL Style: What are some of the obstacles that most artists face today?
Veronique Cote: The biggest challenge is always making a living. The biggest challenge is not letting go, because if you want to make good art it’s not necessarily sellable art, because it’s telling a message and that message isn’t always pretty. Sometimes our messages need to be told that are ugly, that are not fun, that are not pleasing and they don’t sell very well, but they are necessary. So I think being able to make a living out of it and have the shoulders to say, “Okay what I’m saying is a valid.” I need to continue saying it. I’m not going to lose it just, because I’m not making any fortune of money. You keep on going and pushing in that direction because you think that the message you have and that what you’re doing is worthwhile.
SFL Style: How do you measure your success as an artist?
Veronique Cote: Making a living and finding a purpose and probably justifying the choices you can make. Most people, a lot of people qualify their success based on their salary or the amount of things they gather and obviously I can’t qualify my success based on that. I just can qualify my success – on how happy I am and how people understand what I am saying.
SFL Style: Let’s talk about your art. How original is it? What is the message?
Veronique Cote: No way it’s 100% original. Art does not happen in a vacuum and if it does then it is probably a bad art most of the time. It’s really rare that art doesn’t inspire itself. My art is strongly inspired by popular culture and basically it looks at cultural moldings so the way we teach children and people how to behave in our society using narratives. It’s a Disney like juxtaposition between innocence and violence, between happy and very dark. That’s the idea, a mix of maybe traditionalism with warmongering culture. A well intentioned, well-meaning culture, but still kind of scary. It’s to me a metaphoric of the United States or my experience of North America in general where we are very well-intentioned, but very wondrous, very Disney, but also very scary. Where a culture that is attractive and that seems happy and lovely and full of flowers and colors and yet we are very, very violent sometimes with good intention, sometimes just cyclically violent and always in some kind of innocent way. It’s never our fault. It’s always other people. And I think that’s what I’m kind of doing at this moment. I’m using some popular culture, some movies, some stories, and some fairytales. So from those tales, from those movies, from those literatures we teach people how to belong to a culture. So, yeah I definitely 100% pull from culture, pop culture and literary culture and everything that I can find of.
SFL Style: In your opinion, what makes you unique?
Veronique Cote: Oh Lord that’s a hard question because it requires me to be happy with myself and I’m very self-critical. What makes me unique?-Interdisciplinary. I don’t think that it makes me unique, but I think that it makes me different in that when people ask me what kind of art you make, I can’t say I am a painter, I’m a sculptor, I’m a photographer. I’m an interdisciplinary artist. I will teach myself any craftsmanship that I need to say what I need to say.
SFL Style: How satisfied are you with your work?
Veronique Cote: I am very rarely satisfied with my work most of the time. You’re in the my studio right now so there are things I’m working on and then there are things that are on my wall, because I need to learn to love them or hate them. There are things that end up in the trash and there are things that I kind of learned to love or like.
SFL Style: Are you a natural artist?
Veronique Cote: No, I’m a tortured artist. The only thing that comes naturally is my attraction for certain material or certain objects. So obviously right now I’m going nuts, because it’s Easter and I have a got an obsession for bunnies. There are bunnies everywhere and I’m freaking out. So that’s fun… Also, I think I’ve got 10,000 toy soldiers. I’ve melted them, and in the process poisoned myself. That’s what I do. I collect a huge amount of the material and then I attack it. So I melt it or do something with it and then eventually the ideas of how it shapes come, but it’s a very slow and it’s not a fun process most of the time.
SFL Style: Do you ever take a break or disconnect yourself from your creative side?
Veronique Cote: Yeah absolutely. There have been moments, notably after my Master’s, when I was looking for employment and making a very tedious art. I make repetitive task: knitting, sewing and things that are repetitive and that are done to such a scale that eventually it hurts my body. I get carpal tunnel problems or neck problems or even burns from soldering and things like that. So it just gets a little bit depressing. Its like, “Why, why would I do that to myself?” It makes no sense, but when I stopped then I ended up stopping for a while watching a lot of TV, reading a lot of books and then eventually started doing repetitive task - canning fruits in ridiculous quantities or knitting things in ridiculous quantities and I realized that my ends have to be busy so I just need to find a balance between overproduction to obsessive, compulsive repetitive tasks and art creation.
SFL Style: What advice would you give to someone starting out as a new artist?
Veronique Cote: What advice would I give? I think that quality control is the thing that I try to give to my students. That’s probably what I would give to any inspiring artist. You don’t need to wait for someone to discover you. You need to be your own critique and do high end quality control. It’s not because there is a lot of crap art out there, so high end craftsmanship, conceptual or strong conceptual ideological rigor is important to me and I think it should be important to most artist. It’s not about being pretty. It’s about being meaningful and well made. A well rounded artist is both a craftsman and a message seeker I think.
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